ICE STUPA WINTER STARTS AGAIN, BUT FIRST ABOUT THE ALTERNATIVE UNIVERSITY SUMMER
Hello everyone! As winter approaches the Ice Stupa team has come together at the project site in Phyang village since 1st of November, to work on this year’s ice stupas. But before we write about this winter’s ice stupa programme we would like to update you with all happenings during the eventful summer we have just left behind.
After the success of the crowd-funding campaign on Indiegogo in November – December 2014, the pilot phase of the Ice Stupa project was carried out successfully with the ice lasting till 6th of July well beyond our expectations and 5,000 out of the 5,300 trees surviving and thriving. These trees were planted by all the villagers in presence of His Holiness Chetsang Rinpochey on March 5th.
Well after celebrating the 97% survival of these trees we started work on another unique project which was possible thanks to the very generous contributions made by our crowd-funding supporters on Indiegogo last year. You might remember that during the Ice Stupa crowd funding campaign we had promised that if funds go beyond the making of ice stupa glaciers then we shall use any extra funds to start establishing an alternative university (perhaps called the Ice Stupa Alternative University) for mountain development and climate change adaptation... in order to help the youth from Ladakh and the Himalayas to find similar indigenous solutions to other peculiar problems that mountain people face. Thanks to companies like Jain Irrigation India who donated us plastic pipes worth more than USD 15,000… and thanks to villagers of Phyang, students of SECMOL and the Ladakhi Scouts Army Regimental Centre who supported us with 100s of man-days of voluntary labour… we were able to save some money and to sow the seeds of the university project this summer.
Now let me tell you a little more about the university project. The whole of Ladakh region does not have any university so far and that causes two major problems…
a. There is no institution that studies and finds solutions to the unique problems that people in high –Himalayas face. The Ice Stupa in some ways epitomises the essence of such solutions.
b. Secondly in the absence of good higher education facilities young Ladakhis have to go to far away cities in mainland India. Currently it is estimated that roughly 15,000 Ladakhi students are living and studying outside Ladakh as… what I call ‘educational refugees’. Such students often become misfits when they come back and the cost of this whole exercise to Ladakhi parents is estimated to be equal to the entire revenue from Ladakh’s famous tourism industry.
Now the good news is that the monastery and village of Phyang have decided to donate roughly 62 Acres (25 H) of land on the desert of Phyang to establish the Alternative University. And this past summer we were very busy making plans for this project. We invited many renowned national and international experts to help us plan a University Township that would be greened using the Ice Stupa artificial glaciers and that would eventually host up to 5,000 students from Ladakh, the Himalayas and the world.
The internationally acclaimed experts who volunteered their time free of cost for this cause included Sanjay Prakash a renowned Indian green architect, internationally renowned transportation expert Prof. Geetam Tiwari from IIT Delhi, renowned passive solar expert Robert Celaire from France, expert hydrologists Walter Klemm and Ian from Europe, Ann Riquier from Auroville and Sourabh Phadke from Pune.
Apart from the above many young architects and professionals from different parts of the world took up the University Campus design as a project during this year’s Earth Architecture and Passive Solar design course at SECMOL Campus. Together they studied various aspects of designing the township and painted a Thangka painting of the future of Phyang desert... as a smart green city with earth as the building material and the sun as the source of energy. We are now working on preparing more advanced drawings of the master plan for fund raising purposes and for starting a small scale version of the university in temporary constructions... already by summer 2016. And we need your blessings for that.
Meanwhile as mentioned earlier, preparations for this year’s ice stupas are on full swing. More on that later